LIFE Project Cover Photo

Improving the environmental performance of publications from design to lecture!

Reference: LIFE09 ENV/ES/000457 | Acronym: GREENING BOOKS



The pulp and paper industry generates large amounts of air and water pollutants and waste products. It is also one of the largest users of raw materials, including fresh water, energy and forest fibres. Packaging and printing inks, which are produced from chemical mixtures, sealing and reinforcing components, can have an adverse environmental impact. Whilst there have been many initiatives to reduce the impact of the pulp, paper, printing and publishing sectors, these have rarely considered the entire book production process. Therefore, a need existed to apply a more integrated product policy approach to the publishing sector, considering the product lifecycle. There was also an urgent need to compile and homogenise the tools available for assessing the environmental performance of products such as eco-labels and Environmental Management Systems.


The objective of the GREENING BOOKS project was to improve the environmental performance of the publishing sector, moving it towards a more sustainable pattern of use of books and magazines.

This project aimed to integrate into a dynamic scheme existing tools, such as Ecolabel, EMAS, Eco-design and Life Cycle Assessment (LCA), as well as the latest technologies. The project?s LCA approach focused on reducing publications? negative environmental impacts in terms of natural resources consumption, air and water pollutants, wastes produced, energy consumed, greenhouse gases emissions, chemical mixtures, etc.

The idea was to develop an innovative instrument aimed at all stakeholders in the entire lifecycle of the publishing process, in order to reduce the overall environmental footprint. The project would also develop a software tool that calculates the environmental impact of the publication before being produced, allowing for necessary aspects of the process, starting with design, to be considered. This tool would be developed from similar existing tools, but adding an innovative and integrated approach based on a user-friendly model. The project would also develop an application, available on the project?s website, which provides buyers with information on the environmental performance and carbon footprint of books/magazines. By doing so, the actions would raise users awareness and increase their proactive role in the ?greening? process. It would be also useful for public administrations tasked to implement green procurement.

Expected results included:

  • Guidelines on eco-design for books and magazines in order to improve environmental performance;
  • A software tool for designers, publishers, editors and professionals in order to promote greener publishing. The tool would allow the environmental impact of a future publication to be calculated;
  • Pilot experiences that would lead to the production of two demonstration 'green' books and one demonstration 'green' magazine, developed using the software tool and taking into account the best available environmental practices identified during the project.


    Results from the GREENING BOOKS project?s activities demonstrated that the publishing sector can minimise its environmental impact. Key results associated with this have established useful mechanisms to increase eco-publishing practices in the graphic and publishing sector by providing stakeholders with new measures and tools. These include:

  • A new quantification system to calculate the potential environmental impacts of a publication (via LCA). This BookDAPer e-tool was developed using the pre-defined environmental criteria and LCA results. LCA conclusions confirmed that the main environmental impact of publications relates to consumption of raw materials (paper and inks). The plate manufacturing and distribution also have a relevant impact. When analysing the best practice to introduce in the sector it was seen that: - The use of recycled paper can reduce the impact between 15 and 50%. - The use of vegetable oil inks gives lower values than mineral inks only in some of the categories of impact. A demonstration version of the software was made available on-line. BookDAPer allows users to identify and quantify the environmental impacts of publishing products (books and magazines). The e-tool and methodology was tested and demonstrated by publishing a magazine and three books. The bookDAPer demonstrated how, by applying the best practices included in the Handbook, the environmental impact of these publications was reduced as well as the cost.
  • Harmonisation of the labels and criteria used to measure the environmental impact. This resulted in the design of an ecolabel BDAP to communicate the impact of a publication to its end user. The ecolabel BDAP describes the environmental certifications and good environmental practices of the companies involved in the edition, design and printing of the publication and potential environmental impact of the printed product with these environmental indicators: carbon footprint (g CO2 eq.), waste production (g), water consumption (l), energy consumption (kJ) and raw materials consumption (g). In addition, it includes the potential environmental savings with the appliance of environmental criteria in the publication.
  • This ecolabel BDAP tool also reduces the need for high professional knowledge on the matter. The manual provides a guide on the best practice to be used, in an understandable language for the sector. The BDAP label can be considered innovative since it integrates quantitative information about specific environmental impacts (carbon footprint, waste, water, energy and raw materials) with the good practices already available in the legislation/market. The innovation includes the way this label is produced using the bookDAPer tool. During the project, El Tinter published 127 books and magazines using the BDAP tool and the project team estimated an average of 3500 books per title, for which the following environmental benefits were produced: - Reduction of energy consumption: 1.2 MJ (or 0.33 kWh) - Reduction of the carbon footprint: 15.73 tons of CO2 eq. - Reduction of waste production: 800 kg - Reduction of water consumption: 5245 m3 - Saving of raw materials: 7 tonnes.
  • Elaboration and publication of the Good practice guide for eco-publishing and eco-design. Its contents include environmental criteria to reduce the environmental impact in printed products as books and magazines. Outcomes from applying good practices include social benefits (e.g. use of inks that do not emit VOC and therefore, improving the health conditions of the printing workers; and the use of paper from sustainable sources, from sustainable forest management);
  • Increase the knowledge and awareness of the agents involved in the publication chain: designers, publishers, printers, booksellers and readers. This was achieved in part through several technical workshops and other events that took place in order to guarantee the participation of all interested parties in the definition of good practices and environmental criteria in the sector. Very useful information exchanges occurred during the workshops, which also succeeded in disseminating environmental criteria and good practices on environmental issues to many professionals involved in printing products. These dissemination actions provided significant inputs to the project activities and at the same time made a difference in the attitude of the publishers, printers and editors, who now better appreciate (and remain more open to learning about) the benefits of environmental considerations.
  • The aforementioned project results contributed to the implementation of some of the 6th Environment Action Programme of the European Commission for 2002 - 2012, and the 7the EAP. Moreover, the bookDAPer tool integrates all the European eco-labels that exist for paper and environmental management systems in the sector.

    The economic impact of the pilots differed depending on the design changes that were introduced. In the two cases where the publishers or clients accepted design proposals, cost reductions were significant (29.1 % or 60% reduction), while in the case where the design proposal was rejected and only printing changes were applied, the budget reduction decreased by 5% or 9%. Such results can be used to help counter misconceptions that eco-friendly means more expensive.

    Aware of the high transferability potential of the project results, the three beneficiaries have signed an agreement for the exploitation of the e-tool in the future: Simpple will do the maintenance of the tool, Leitat will be the organisation that will verify and certify the labels produced and El Tinter will be a user and will do the commercial dissemination. All the stakeholders will also continue to promote the project?s Eco-publishing principles and they will incorporate the criteria identified in the Greening books project for their publications from now on.

    Further information on the project can be found in the project's layman report and After-LIFE Communication Plan (see "Read more" section).


    Reference: LIFE09 ENV/ES/000457
    Start Date: 01/11/2010
    End Date: 31/10/2013
    Total Budget: 723,837 €
    EU Contribution: 361,918 €
    Project Location:


    Coordinating Beneficiary: Acondicionamiento Tarrasense
    Legal Status: NGO
    Address: C/ de la Innovació, 08225, Terrassa (Barcelona), España
    Contact Person: Dirk SASETA
    Tel: +34 93 7882300

    LIFE Project Map



    • Eco-products design
    • Certification
    • Integrated management
    • Life Cycle Assessment-Management
    • Paper - Pulp - Printing
    • Awareness raising - Information


    • integrated management
    • printing industry
    • environmental management
    • environmental performance
    • ecolabel
    • life-cycle management


    Name Type
    Acondicionamiento Tarrasense Coordinator
    El Tinter, Spain Participant
    SIMPPLE, Spain Participant


    Type Resource
    Project web site Project's website
    Poster "Life cycle assessment as a methodology to develop : An easy tool, bookdaper, to improve the environmental performance of printed products produced by smes" (3.13 MB)
    Poster "Improving the environmental performance of publications from design to reading!" (1.28 KB)
    Poster "La solució és l'ecoedició: Els llibres es poden fer bé, sense fer malbé" (in Catalan, 877 KB)
    Poster Notice Board of the project
    Publication Layman report
    Publication Project's Final technical report
    Publication After_LIFE Communication Plan
    Publication "Manual de la buena ecoedición : Guía de buenas prácticas para la ecoedición y el ecodiseño en el sector de las publicaciones (libros y revistas)" (953 KB)
    Publication "What is bookDAPer?" (686 KB)
    Publication "Manual de la bona ecoedició : Guia de bones pràctiques per a l’ecoedició i l’ecodisseny en el sector de les publicacions (llibres i revistes) [Catalan]" (960 KB)
    Publication "The handbook for good eco-publishing : Good practices guidelines for eco-publishing and eco-design in the publishing sector (books and magazines)" (943 KB)
    Publication "¿Qué es la herramienta bookDAPer?" (1.06 MB)
    Video link Project's video 2 (12')
    Video link Project's video (8.24')
    Newsletter "Newsletter n°2: We celebrated greening books, the 3rd presentation of "ecoedicion" 2011" (110 KB)
    Newsletter "Newsletter n°3: Greening books' attendance at international fairs" (162 KB)
    Newsletter "Newsletter n°4: Life cicle assessment of a book and a magazine" (462 KB)
    Newsletter "Newsletter n°5: The guide and the software, ready for the publications sector" (257 KB)
    Newsletter "Newsletter n°7: The EcoPublishing continues" (127 KB)
    Newsletter "Newsletter n°1: Launch of the greening books project" (229 KB)
    Newsletter "Newsletter n°6: Affiliate your company to the bookDAP system" (414 KB)
    Leaflet Project's leaflet (4.23 MB)
    Leaflet Project's leaflet (4.28 MB)